Tag Archive for: river mining

River Mining Without Permit Goes Without Investigation

On April 21st, 2020, I reported on a sand mine that was river mining in the San Jacinto West Fork without a permit. It’s unlikely that any penalties will result. In fact, three weeks later, neither the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), nor Texas Parks and Wildlife Division (TPWD), have even investigated the incident. State Representative Dan Huberty is calling on the heads of both agencies to understand why.

No Investigation by TCEQ or TPWD

The operation is called the Spring Wet Sand and Gravel Plant. Multisource Sand and Gravel Co., LTD, based in San Antonio, operates the plant.

I filed a complaint with the TCEQ on April 21. TCEQ referred it to the TPWD for investigation because TPWD regulates sand mining in rivers. Yet Parks and Wildlife did not even investigate the incident.

A TPWD game warden in Montgomery County said, “We need to catch them in the act. And even if we do, the fine is like getting a speeding ticket – inconsequential. It’s only about $500 per dump truck. At this point there’s no way to prove how much sand they removed. A better solution would be to have TCEQ pull their permit. We see these kinds of things right before a mine goes out of business. They just go out there and get the last sand they can get before they leave.”

Spring Wet Sand and Gravel may not have reached the end of operations yet, but pickings are getting slimmer as some of the photos below will show.

Scope of Mining More Apparent in May Photos

Compared to April 21 (when the SJRA was still releasing water from Lake Conroe), a recent flyover on May 11th revealed the full scope of the river mining.

Measurements in Google Earth show the point bar occupied about 7.5 acres. Assuming an average height of three feet, that area held more than 36,000 cubic yards of sand. That would equate to about 3,600 regular dump trucks (10 yards per average load).

At $500 per truckload, that totals $1.8 million. And that doesn’t even include the 8% tax that TPWD gave up on sales. But it’s not worth their time?

You have to catch a lot of hunters and fishermen without licenses to make up that kind of money. You would think it might be worthwhile for TPWD to investigate … even if it’s just half that much. That could probably pay the salaries of at least a dozen full-time employees.

This is just one more in a series of egregious incidents involving Montgomery County and sand mines. They include consistent under-appraisals, intentional breaches, and allegedly polluting the drinking water of 2 million people.

Photo taken on May 11. Looking downstream outside the Spring Wet Sand and Gravel Plant, just south of SH 99.
Closer shot reveals scrape marks from excavator are still visible. See lower right. Also note little pile of orange sand left behind.

The presence of the orange pile in the right foreground may provide a clue as to why the miners did not excavate lower in this location. Sometimes color continuity of sand from batch to batch is important. For instance, when making concrete blocks for a building, owners usually want the color of all the blocks to be uniform.

Looking upstream from the opposite end of the point bar.
The platform used by mining equipment may provide a clue as to the depth of the excavation.
Spring Wet Sand and Gravel plant in the background and road leading to river excavation.
Looking a little more to the south shows the full extent of Spring Wet Sand and Gravel’s operations in the background.
On May 11, the only activity visible inside the entire mine was the dry mining shown above. This may not be the end for this mine, but pickings appear to be getting slimmer.
Spring Wet Sand and Gravel’s main processing facility

State Representative Huberty’s Response

Upon learning that TPWD chose not to investigate the river mining, State Representative Dan Huberty immediately contacted the directors of TPWD and the TCEQ to request explanations. Huberty has fought for a decade to regulate the industry in a way that protects both the public and law-abiding miners.

Dangers of River Mining

The type of river mining shown here is called “bar scalping” by scientists who study the impact of river mining. Some see bar scalping as the least destructive form of river mining. In general, though, most scientists still warn about dangers of river mining.

Immediate and long-term risks include:

  • Increases in river bed and bank erosion both up- and downstream
  • Loss of agriculture land, houses and infrastructure
  • Failure of roads, dikes and bridges
  • Lowering of groundwater reserves
  • Reduction in water quality
  • Reduction in diversity and abundance of fish
  • Changes to riverside vegetation

For those reasons and more, river mining is prohibited in most countries of Europe. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “Europe has shown that developed economies can continue to prosper without resorting to river sand. Its supplies now come from crushed quarry rocks, recycled concrete and marine sand.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/13/2020

987 Days after Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Video From Boat of 7.5-Acre Area in San Jacinto West Fork Mined for Sand

Yesterday, I posted pictures taken from a helicopter of a 7.5-acre sand bar in the San Jacinto West Fork that had been mined without a permit. Then last night, Josh Alberson sent me some video from a boat of the same area. Gabe Gosney, a passenger in Alberson’s jet boat, shot the video on GoPro and wants to share it with the community.

Giant Sand Bar Now Looks Like Example of Pit Capture

The area in question lies on the west side of the river, just south of SH99. When Alberson first saw it, he excitedly texted me, saying he found an example of “pit capture” on the West Fork. The only problem: there was no pit to capture. And no recent flood.

As Alberson sped down the West Fork, he spotted the area and slowed. Gosney shot hand held from the boat. Here’s what the carnage looked like from the river.

3 minute 15 second video by Gabe Gosney of 7.5 acre area in San Jacinto West Fork being mined for sand.

Changes to Riverine Environment

Several things become apparent immediately upon viewing the video.

  • Humans caused extensive damage to the river ecosystem (property of the state).
  • What looked like the edge of a sand bar from 300 feet up in a helicopter is actually small piles of sand left by the miners.
  • River current now flows through the mined area, but at a slower rate than the river itself.
  • Trees that used to form a small part of the edge of the bar in one area have toppled.
The sand bar outlined above in this Google Earth satellite image from 12/1/2019 no longer exists.
It has been mined out of existence.

Alberson says the river was up about a foot to a foot and a half compared to normal because of the SJRA’s seasonal release of 529 cubic feet per second from Lake Conroe. He said the current was quite fast – difficult to stand in. He did not get out of the boat to see how deep the water was in the mined area, but his impression was that it was shallow.

Mining Not Permitted According to Authorities

The TCEQ regulates mining in the floodplain. Texas Parks and Wildlife Division regulates mining in the river. And the SJRA has commissioned a study on the possibility of building “sand traps” in the river.

All three groups say they have no record of issuing any permits for river mining in the San Jacinto.

Potential Dangers

During floods, the dying trees you see in the video will dislodge and float downstream where they will cause property damage or get lodged in bridge supports, form dams, and cause flooding.

When floodwaters spread out in this area, they will slow and deposit their sediment load. However, where the river channel becomes narrower downstream, the river will speed up again and likely accelerate erosion of river banks and other people’s property.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is investigating. More news to follow.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/24/2020 with thanks to Josh Alberson and Gabe Gosney

969 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

TPWD Investigates River Mining Without Permit on San Jacinto West Fork

A 7.5-acre point bar outside a San Jacinto West Fork sand mine has disappeared, the apparent victim of river mining. River mining is prohibited in many countries because of its dangers. Texas does not prohibit it, but taxes it at a higher rate than floodplain mining to discourage the practice. The dangers include:

  • Upstream and downstream erosion
  • Destruction of riverbanks and river properties
  • Undermining infrastructure (such as bridges and pipelines)
  • Increases in turbidity
  • Lowering of the water table
  • Loss of riparian vegetation.
Location of River Mining on West Fork Just South of Highway 99

No Permits on File With Key Regulatory Bodies

A check with the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and Texas Parks and Wildlife Division (TPWD) showed the following:

A TCEQ investigator has spoken to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Wetlands Conservation Program. “If the facility is digging in or very near the water’s edge,” said the TCEQ’s Jonathan Walling, “the facility would most likely need a permit from TPWD.”

Tom Heger of TPWD said Montgomery County Parks & Wildlife officials are investigating.

Compare the satellite image above to the shots below. Google Earth measurements show the sand bar that no longer exists was bigger than most of the pits in the mine itself.

Looking downriver, you can still see outlines of point bar and marks from excavator.
Close up of marks left by teeth of excavator.
Looking toward West Fork where point bar used be. Vehicle tracks lead back to mine behind camera position.
Pits created in the river.
Relationship of river mining to flood plain mine in background.
Well-used road between excavation and mine.
The disappearance of sand is not because of the seasonal release of water from Lake Conroe. Hundreds of bars both up and downstream appeared normal.
Google Earth shows the river to be approximately 350 feet wide at this point.

Texas Rules on River Mining

The State of Texas governs the taking of sand from rivers. See the regulations and laws on this FAQ page at: https://tpwd.texas.gov/faq/landwater/sand_gravel/. Key points include:

  •  If the stream is perennial (flows most of the time), or is more than 30 feet wide between the banks (even if it is dry most of the time), the State claims the bed and the sand and gravel in it as State-owned. 
  • A permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is required to “disturb or take” streambed materials from a streambed claimed by the State.

According to TPWD, the operator did not have a permit. In fact, no one on the entire San Jacinto river has a permit, according to TPWD.

How River Mining Degrades River Beds/Channels: Academic Insights

San Diego State University summarizes some of the issues associated with river mining. The paragraph below, taken from their excellent website, explains why most governments discourage river mining.

…bed degradation occurs when mineral extraction increases the flow capacity of the channel. A pit excavation locally increases flow depth and a barskimming operation increases flow width. Both conditions produce slower streamflow velocities and lower flow energies, causing sediments arriving from upstream to deposit at the mining site. As streamflow moves beyond the site and flow energies increase in response to the “normal” channel form downstream, the amount of transported sediment leaving the site is now less than the sediment carrying capacity of the flow. This sediment-deficient flow or “hungry” water picks up more sediment from the stream reach below the mining site, furthering the bed degradation process.

G. Mathias Kondolf of the University of California/Berkeley published this illustrated paper on the hungry water effect.

Professor Kondolf also published “Geomorphic and environmental effects of instream gravel
mining.” It contains an excellent, well documented discussion of the impacts of river mining.

SEDIMENT MINING IN ALLUVIAL CHANNELS: PHYSICAL EFFECTS AND MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVES by M. RINALDI, B. WYZGA and N. SURIAN contains an thorough discussion of the dangers of river mining and public policy. (Warning: Copyrighted paper; costs $49.)

Mine Ownership

According to the TCEQ, the sand mine in the photos is called the Spring Wet Sand and Gravel Plant. Their registration database shows Multisource Sand And Gravel Co., Ltd. owns and operates it, under APO registration number AP0002459. Multisource Sand and Gravel Co. Ltd. is based in San Antonio at 126 East Turbo Drive. It is a subsidiary of Sage LLC. Lee C. McCarty and Benjamin Davis manage it from the Turbo Drive offices.  Daniel E. McCarty and Lee C. McCarty manage Sage.

The mine owners could not be reached for comment. Their phones went unanswered, perhaps because of the COVID crisis.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/23/2020

968 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Bill that Could Open Door to River Mining Modified and Heading to Full Senate

Senate Bill 2126, which allows sand mining in rivers – without permits or royalties – was voted out of the Senate Water and Rural Affairs committee last night. The committee left the bill pending during the previous day’s testimony after four of the seven members expressed concerns about it.

Changes in Committee Substitute SB 2126

However, when the bill’s author, Senator Brandon Creighton, created a “committee substitute” bill, four senators voted FOR it.

The substitute bill contains two major changes:

  • It limits the bill’s geographic scope to the San Jacinto River and its tributaries.
  • It gives the Harris County Flood Control District the same powers that it gives the San Jacinto River Authority.

Local bills rarely encounter serious opposition. So this may guarantee the bill’s passage.

Issues with Revisions

Unfortunately, the language is still so sweeping, that I fear it could open the door to abuses.

Someone reading this for the first time, without the benefit of all the senate testimony, could draw the conclusion that the San Jacinto and its tributaries are wide open to sand mining – 24/7/365 – as long you justify it by saying you will improve the river’s conveyance.

Vague Language Opens Door to Abuses

For instance, after reading this bill, unless you watched the testimony, how would you know that it’s supposedly:

  • For the purpose of building sand traps that are maintained once or twice a year?
  • Limited to “strategic locations”?
  • Based on scientific studies?

Several years down the road, when the players change, all the verbal promises made during testimony will be long forgotten. It’s easy to see how people could get the wrong impression of the bill’s original intent.

Nightmare Scenario

At that time, I can see developer’s coming to sand miners and the SJRA (or Harris County Flood Control) saying, “I need more fill to elevate my property. Can you take it out of the river for me?”

The only problem is this. While it may reduce the risk of flooding on the developers’ property, without proper safeguards, it will likely increase flooding for surrounding and downstream properties.

It could even increase sedimentation downstream as many academic studies have shown.

Example 1: Loss of riparian vegetation along the banks increases erosion. So even though you take sand out of the river, you put more back in.

Example 2: Imagine a flood moving slowly through a widened area. Now imagine those same floodwaters moving downstream through a narrower area. As the water hits the constriction, it starts churning at and eroding the river banks.

Example 3: Lack of permitting or engineering studies means that developers could put fill anywhere. Even in streams. They could divert flows onto neighboring properties. They could put fill in wetlands and pave it over. This would accelerate flooding downstream.

Proponents of the bill argue that removing deposits like this one near a mine could keep the sand from migrating downriver. Opponents argue that it could destabilize river banks and worsen sedimentation. The vagueness of the language in the bill would also make it easy to widen the river anywhere developers wanted to build in floodplains.

Better Ways to Reduce Sedimentation

Creighton’s original stated intent was to eliminate disincentives for public/private partnerships that could help address excess sedimentation. A noble intention.

But if he really wants to stop sediment from coming downstream, he might be better off partnering with groups like the Bayou Land Conservancy that protect and restore floodplains. Or accelerating bills like his own SB2124, which creates best management practices for sand mining. Texas is the only state that I could find that doesn’t require minimum setbacks from rivers for sand mines. That contributes to repeated flooding of mines. We sure could use some help in that department. Frankly, so could the miners.

This session ends on May 27th. Tick Tock.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/18/2019

597 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 39 days until the end of this legislative session

Caution: SB 2126 Opens Door to Sand Mining in Rivers

Senate Bill (SB) 2126 is well intentioned. However, in my opinion, its present wording could have disastrous unintended consequences.

What Bill Does

SB 2126 would allow a “conservation or reclamation district” to take sand from the West Fork and its tributaries in order to “restore, maintain, or expand the capacity of the river and its tributaries to convey storm flows.” The district would not need a permit and could deposit sand anywhere as long as it’s on private land. What’s a “conservation district?” The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), which supports this bill.

Image showing proximity of sand mines to the West Fork of the San Jacinto. If approved, SB2126 would allow miners into the river, too.

How It Started

The SJRA, concerned about sediment in the river, met with miners to see if they could find a public/private solution. The feelings were:

  • The river had too much sand
  • Dredging is very expensive
  • Miners had the expertise and equipment to remove it at no cost to the public.

Great in Theory But…

It’s hard to argue with any of those points and the cost savings are appealing. But this bill ignores the fact that river mining is actually outlawed in many countries. They include England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Others strongly regulate river mining including Italy, Portugal, and New Zealand.

Scientific literature abounds with examples of how river mining frequently increases sedimentation downstream. Some causes include:

  • Loss of riparian vegetation that stabilizes river banks
  • Channel incision (lowering or widening of river beds)
  • Lowering of flood plain water tables, which kills more plants on river banks and increases erosion
  • Disturbance (resuspension) of sediment on the river bottom that gets carried downstream
  • A reduction of “bedload” that contributes to head cutting and downstream erosion, as seen in this video.
  • “Sediment starvation” which causes downstream water to pull sediment from banks and beds, often resulting in the loss of private property downstream.
  • Upstream changes in channel geometry that cause beds and banks to erode downstream, for instance, when rivers go from wide (near sand mines) to narrow (downstream).

For more background and explanation, see:

Proponents Say…

The SJRA says that it would provide the necessary oversight to reduce negative environmental impacts of river mining. The bill’s authors cite the need for “continuous dredging” on the West Fork. Further, they say that the bureaucracy for contracting dredging is overly burdensome and that this bill will cut red tape. Here is the analysis of the bill prepared for the Senate’s Water and Rural Affairs Committee.

Opponents Say…

Many environmental groups and scientists see river mining as far more destructive than flood-plain mining. Historically, the shift to flood-plain mining across the U.S. was largely a response to the dangers and excesses of river mining.

Also, the bill makes no mention of any oversight provisions, limitations or public comment. Sponsors even argue that the bill’s purpose is to eliminate the red tape associated with current oversight.

The Bayou Land Conservancy, one of the leading environmental groups in the Lake Houston Area, is sending the following letter to members of the Senate Water and Rural Affairs Committee as well the group’s own members.

Bayou Land Conservancy’s Letter on SB 2126

“On behalf of Bayou Land Conservancy, I urge you to vote NO on SB 2126 when the Water & Rural Affairs Committee meets to consider this bill.

“Bayou Land Conservancy is a non-profit, community-supported, land-conservation organization that preserves land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. We preserve 14,000 acres in the Houston region, primarily focused on the Lake Houston watershed. This includes the San Jacinto River, cited in 2006 as one of America’s most endangered rivers due to a number of threats, including the high intensity of local aggregate mining. 

“SB 2126 would allow operators that are now currently limited to mining away from the river to remove sand and gravel from within the river itself. The river belongs to the citizens of Texas, and the contents of the river do as well. SB 2126 allows operators to remove sand, gravel, and other natural products that belong to the taxpayers of Texas without acquiring a permit or paying a fee. 

“Not only would passage of this bill set a dangerous precedent, only a casual understanding of the science is necessary to know it would make sedimentation and flooding on the San Jacinto River even worse. “

“Because of the sandy soils along the San Jacinto, river banks are especially prone to collapse. Furthermore, while dredging in the still waters of a lake or bay can have benefits, mining within the flowing portion of a stream catastrophically destabilizes the river channel, speeding up erosion. Far from the imagined result of less sediment moving down the river, this dredging within a flowing river leads to much more sediment ending up in Lake Houston.

“This watershed-wide disruption of regional stream dynamics could also potentially create a tremendous liability for mining operators. Worst of all, this action would send much greater volumes of water even faster downstream, threatening communities like Kingwood, Humble and others. 

“Without prior careful and deliberate study by an independent research organization long before any legislation, this practice should not be allowed. There are too many risks to downstream communities. We urge you to keep the life, health, safety, property of these downstream communities in mind and vote NO on SB 2126.”

This Bill Scares Me

The lack of language pertaining to oversight, methods and limitations in SB 2126 scares me. I was at a meeting in Austin last November when the subject of this bill came up.

I asked a simple question: “What would the solution look like?” I got three different answers from the SJRA, legislators and sand miners. Since then, I have met with all three groups again and still have no consistent answer.

Worse, the bill does not encourage them to find one. I can imagine years down the road (when all the good intentions are long forgotten) how the purpose of this bill could be subverted. Imagine a developer like Romerica saying, “I have a flooding problem. Take more sand out of the river and put it on my property. We don’t need any pesky oversight or public comment. Let’s get on with it. Who cares about flood plains when you can just expand the river?”

While I would like to see flood mitigation speeded up, I recognize that removing regulation can sometimes solve one problem only to create others. In addition to increasing sedimentation, this bill could fuel ceaseless and careless development along river banks that contributes to flooding. Despite its good intentions!

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/15/2019

594 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Immediate and Long-Term Risks Associated with River Sand Mining

Scientific literature from around the world has identified both immediate and long-term risks associated with sand and gravel mining. These risks underscore the need for tighter regulation of the sand mining industry in Texas, where the industry does not follow best practices commonly accepted in other states and countries.  Yet some miners here are pushing to start mining rivers (as opposed to flood plains where they mine now).

Why Don’t We Just Let Them Mine the River?

When looking at all the sediment in the San Jacinto, it’s logical to think, “Why don’t we just let sand miners mine the river?” However, many countries in the world have outlawed the practice of river mining, largely because of the dangers of over-mining. If Texas explores this solution, experience has shown that it should be under strict governmental supervision to prevent excesses which have widened rivers, damaged properties and destroyed the river environment elsewhere.

Sedimentation in the East Fork of the San Jacinto. This dune constricts the conveyance of the river by approximately 50 percent. It would be a likely target for river miners. But where would they mine after such obstructions are removed?

River mining differs from the type of remedial dredging that we are doing now. The objective for river mining is to maximize profit, which often means pushing limits. The motivation for dredging is to maximize profits by staying within the limits outlined by the client (i.e., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

The Australian Experience with River Mining

In Australia, the government of New South Whales discussed many of these risks in “The NSW Sand and Gravel Extraction Policy for Non Tidal Rivers.” The executive summary (page 5) describes the situation we face today in the Houston region.

“Evidence of environmental problems associated with river sand and gravel extraction is increasing. So also is the community’s expectation of river systems. Future management decisions must be based on the principle of sustainable development – sustainability not only of the sand and gravel resources but also of other river uses and values.”

The discussion of risks begins with an admonishment. “Management of sand and gravel extraction must ensure that the activity does not conflict with the aims of other component policies.” For instance, they say that, “Wild and scenic rivers, wetlands and designated recreational areas are all places where sand and gravel extraction would have a highly visible and adverse impact. Extraction should not be considered in such areas.” (Sec. 6.1.1, Page 16.)

To that list, I personally would add, “The source of drinking water for millions of people.” A growing body of evidence collected by the Houston-Galveston Area Council suggests that alarming bacterial growth in the West Fork of the San Jacinto can be linked to excess sedimentation.

The Major Risks of River Mining

Other risks outlined by New South Whales include:

  • “Excavation below water level disturbs fine grained sediments which are easily transported for long distances downstream.” (Section 6.1.2. Page 17.) In previous posts, we have seen how mining below the level of the San Jacinto river bed has contributed to the breach of dikes and the capture of sand pits during floods in our area.
  • “Increased rates of river erosion and other channel changes can occur in the shorter term, due to both natural and human-induced changes. These changes include increases in the size, magnitude and frequency of floods…” (Sec. 6.1.3. Page 17.)
  • “…excavation below existing bed level may be a direct cause of bank collapse.” (Sec. 6.1.4. Page 19.)
  • “The potential for increased riverbed and bank erosion is especially important in rivers where there are a number of extraction sites. To date the cumulative effect of a large number of small operations has not been controlled.”  (Sec. 6.1.4. Page 19.) This is especially true of the West Fork of the San Jacinto where we have approximately 20 square miles of sand mines between I-45 and U.S.59.
  • “Most of the finer sediments (sand, silt and clay) released from erosion of alluvial banks will be transported downstream, often for considerable distances. Increased siltation in these downstream areas can cause problems to navigation … and adversely impact flooding in the area.” (Sec. 6.1.5. Pages 19-20.) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found an increase in flood risk from sedimentation in its value engineering study on the West Fork last spring.
  • “If extraction is below the riverbed level, groundwater recharge from rivers to floodplain aquifers may be severely reduced. This will impact adversely on bores and wells in the area.” (Sec. 6.1.6. Page 20.) 
  • “Extraction of river sand and gravel often involves direct clearing of vegetation (that stabilizes soil). … Construction of access tracks and processing sites associated with the extraction process can also involve clearing of vegetation.” (Sec. 6.1.7. Page 20.)
  • “Suspended solids adversely affect many water users and ecosystems. They can significantly increase water treatment costs, especially where they act as a substrate for bacteria and so increase the problems and costs of disinfection in water treatment plants.” (Sec. 6.1.9. Page 20.)
  • There will be some rivers, however, where the value to other users will be such that extraction may need to be precluded. Similarly, where past extraction has over-taxed a river system, future extraction may need to be precluded until the river has recovered sufficiently, if it does so at all.” (Sec. 6.1.12. Page 22.)

What to Do

The Australian report then goes on to talk about the need for sand and gravel to support road building and economic growth. (Sec. 6.2).

Section 6.3 talks about alternative sources for sand and gravel.

Section 6.4 talks about governmental costs to monitor sand and gravel extraction.

Section 7 talks about guidelines for safe extraction when mining in rivers and how to crack down on illegal activity (something we desperately need to do here as well). Here they talk about the opportunity to involve community members as extra pairs of eyes and the need to enroll major purchases (such as TxDoT) in the enforcement effort.

Section 8 talks about permitting procedures.

Section 9 talks about performance measures and monitor programs. Here they have some novel measures that we could learn from. I especially like Section 9.3, Community Monitoring. Inputs include:

  • Data collected by local community groups including extractors; 
  • Reports by local ‘care’ groups and riparian landowners; 
  • Reports by local environmental or recreational interest groups; 
  • Reports by local TCM Committees; 
  • Reports by local government. 

Such an inclusive approach helps guarantee that the needs of various interest groups are balanced.

Australian Conclusions: A Cautionary Tale

Section 10, the Conclusion, says on page 36: “There are many natural causes which may increase the rate of riverbed and bank erosion. However, extraction of large amounts of sand and gravel from within the channels has exacerbated the situation in many rivers. Past experience in some areas of the State has shown that crisis point can be reached. In other areas, increasing conflict with other river uses has made extraction of sand and gravel a less viable option.”

If the State of Texas decides to permit river mining, I sincerely hope we can find a workable balance for the San Jacinto that protects everyone’s interests.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/5/2018

433 Days since Hurricane Harvey